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Saturday, 20 September 2014

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MPs to grill Sellafield bosses on overspend

OVERSPENDS of hundreds of millions of pounds and significant risks to the public have been highlighted in a shock report about operations at Sellafield.

MPs from a powerful Commons watchdog will now visit the site later this month to take evidence about its performance.

The National Audit Office issued a report called Managing Risk Reduction At Sellafield on Wednesday in which it warns that massive over-spending on key projects – £244 million on Evaporator D alone – could delay work to reduce risks and hazards on site.

And on safety the NAO report warns: “Some of the older facilities at Sellafield containing highly hazardous radioactive waste have deteriorated so much that their contents pose significant risks to people and the environment.

“Any significant containment failure, particularly in legacy storage ponds and silos, could result in highly hazardous radioactive material causing enduring contamination affecting people and the environment.”

Now the powerful Commons Public Accounts Committee is coming to West Cumbria to hold its own inquiry into the NAO’s findings. It will be held on November 26 and in public.

The 14 MPs of the cross-party watchdog will visit Sellafield before holding an afternoon hearing. It is termed an “evidence session” for which the venue has still to be chosen but will be held as close to the site as possible.

“It is all about costs and how money is spent,” said a spokesman.

The Public Accounts Committee will examine all aspects of the NAO report and decide whether taxpayers’ money has been wasted on Sellafield projects. After taking evidence it will draw up a report to Parliament.

Commenting on the disclosures of Sellafield’s escalating costs and programme delays, committee chair Margaret Hodge MP said: “Projects of this length and ambition are ripe for dithering and delay. I am dismayed to discover the clean-up of Sellafield is no different.”

She added: “Hazardous radioactive waste is housed in buildings which pose intolerable risks to people and the environment. My concern is that unless the authority holds Sellafield Ltd to a clear and rigorously benchmarked plan, timetables will continue to slip and costs spiral.

“It is totally unacceptable to allow today’s poor management to shift the burden and expense of Sellafield to future generations of taxpayers and their families.”

The Treasury will have two months to respond to whatever criticisms or recommendations the Public Accounts Committee chooses to make. In turn it can decide whether or not Sellafield costs and spending are acceptable.

Normally the committee holds its sessions in Westminster but in this case its members want to see Sellafield and speak to management.

The NAO report reveals that vast amounts have been over-spent on major Sellafield projects. It concludes: “Some of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s 14 major projects at Sellafield have not provided good value for money” and warns: “This could delay risk and hazard reduction.”

At the Public Accounts Committee hearing on November 26 witnesses will be called to give evidence and face a barrage of questions from the MPs. Most of the evidence is certain to be given by the key nuclear players – the NDA, Nuclear Management Partners and Sellafield Ltd. Members of the public will be invited to observe but not to take part, although the public will be invited to send written evidence or observations which the committee can take into account in drawing up its report.

The NAO scrutinises public spending for Parliament and is independent of government. Its report highlights five factors that has led to Sellafield’s cost escalations and delays:-

The uncertainties involved in a review of 14 major projects “require taxpayers to bear the impact of delay and cost increases and limits risk sharing.”

Gaps in the capability of Sellafield Ltd’s subcontractors

Construction proceeded before design risks were sufficiently addressed

Weaknesses in cost and schedule estimation

Weaknesses in project reporting and monitoring.

Anti-nuclear group CORE said the cost of Evaparator D had now soared to £643million and spokesman Martin Forwood said: “However the NDA may dress it up, the project has completely missed the reprocessing boat for which it was originally intended. Even for the nuclear industry this is project mismanagement at its very worst.”

But Copeland’s MP Jamie Reed said: “There is nothing new in this report that observers of UK nuclear power policy will not be aware of. Where criticisms regarding the speed of progress is made they are largely deserved, and for the most part fair, but they are not new and nobody understands them better than the workforce and the NDA.

“Not simply because of the near economic depression but as a matter of principle, every penny of public money should be spent wisely and effectively and this has not always been the case at Sellafield. Clearly this report will have consequences for job numbers and the employment profile on the site and I look forward to continuing to work with NDA, NMP and Sellafield Ltd on this and other developments.”

The Department of Energy & Climate Change said: “Substantial progress is being made tackling the unique and complex challenges at Sellafield. A new plan has been developed for the site which provides the basis for improved performance and removes unrealistic assumptions. Cost savings of over £425 million have been generated and a further £1 billion of previously planned investment avoided.”

Have your say

I know it needs cleaned up and that isnt my point , my point is it should never have happened in the first place .
Oh and Marra , I'm not outraged I'm only saying that I'm glad I have never taken the coin and been a part of the mess and will never be linked to being an employee in future disasters this place is bubbling to cause.

Posted by The honest Critic on 18 November 2012 at 12:47

Honest critic, I dont know what your case is. You seem to be saying that you think Sellafield needs to be cleaned up and closed etc when that is exactly what is being done at Sellafield. If you want to speed the process up you should apply for a job here and help.

Posted by John on 16 November 2012 at 11:06

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